Babies & Toddlers,  Meal Planning / Meal Prep

First Tastes

My introduction to the world of Thrive freeze-dried foods came shortly after my daughter was born. I had a sort of vague plan of making my own homemade baby food, but I really hadn’t thought that far ahead. When I learned about Thrive, and how easy and convenient it was to make my own healthy baby food, I was thrilled. The experience of feeding my daughter using Thrive was so positive, and so hassle-free, it was the beginning of the freeze-dried revolution in my kitchen!

So Why Freeze-dried?

What is it about Thrive’s freeze-dried foods that made me so excited to use them in my baby’s food? For me, there were three main reasons.

  1. Nutritional Content and Additives

Before I begin, I have a short disclaimer: I am by no means a nutrition expert, the following is only based on my own research and opinions. With that said, however, the decision to make my own baby food was an easy one. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, and like the control I have over what I add when I cook my own meals. And as Daina Kalnins and Joanne Saab point out in their fantastic book “Better Baby Food”,

“If you make your own baby food, you can offer your baby a greater variety of flavours. Homemade foods also tend to have more texture than their commercial counterparts. And because you control what ingredients go in, you know the food contains no additives.”

Kalnins & Saab, “Better Baby Food”, 2nd Edition, page 50

According to my research, (and again, I am no expert here!), it seems that the high heat required for safe commercial canning of purees can cause losses of some nutrients, especially water soluble ones such as vitamins B and C. It also tends to affect flavour and texture, as I can personally vouch for after attending a baby shower where tasting and attempting to identify baby food was one of the party games. (For the record, I failed dismally!)

That’s when I discovered Thrive. A full complement of fruits and veggies hanging out on the shelves of my pantry, impervious to mold or freezer burn, sounded too good to be true. I thought there must be a catch somewhere, or at the very least a nutritional hit to compensate for all that convenience. I could not have been more wrong. In comparing Thrive freeze-dried fruits and veggies to the labels of all the basic grocery store baby fruit and veggie purees, I found the nutrition facts are very close in most areas. However, I found two very notable exceptions: sugar and sodium.

Almost across the board, Thrive fruits and veggies are higher in sugar and carbohydrates. For example, a common baby food brand of green pea puree contains 4 grams of sugar and 12 grams of carbohydrates. Thrive peas, in the same quantity as the jar of baby food, yield a startling 7 grams of sugar and 18 grams of carbs. And yet, both in their ingredient lists have nothing but peas (and water for the puree). At this point, I was very confused. How could plain old peas yield such different nutritional information? It’s all in the details – Thrive fruit and veggie producers let their crops ripen on the vine and harvest them at their peak, rather than picking them green like most grocery store produce. Thus, the naturally-occurring sugar concentrations are higher. So yes, there are higher sugar levels, but it’s the same way that eating raspberries straight off the bush taste sweeter than out of a plastic carton. I’m ok with that.

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The most surprising difference was sodium content: 1/2 cup of Thrive peas have 5 mg of sodium whereas the commercial pureed peas had a whopping 60 mg of sodium! Again, there were no additives listed in the baby food, so I have absolutely no idea why there would be such a difference! This is definitely an extreme example, many other single item fruit/veggie baby food purees I looked at were a lot closer, and a few even beat the freeze-dried fruits/veggies in the sodium category. But once you move past the starter single-ingredient commercial purees into the mixed purees, meal purees, and “baby desserts”, most have a lot more to reckon with in the additives list. On the other hand, Thrive guarantees no additives and has a rigorous, 40-step system to ensure optimal nutrition in every product. Because of this, Thrive products can actually be more nutritious than even the produce section of the grocery store! Just some food for thought…

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2. Reducing Food Waste

Babies who are just learning to eat solids usually don’t eat a whole lot. And especially in those early weeks of introducing new foods one at a time to check for reactions, they don’t get through that much of something before it’s time to try something new. Thus, your freezer will very soon fill up with ice cube tray plops of various different purees, chilling out for later use. Unless you are very meticulous, some of them inevitably will get freezer-burned and forgotten, only to be thrown out later. The same goes for fresh produce; solid things often go squishy and squishy things turn solid before they are all used up. Even if you purchase your baby food, you’ll more than likely find yourself with half-eaten jars moldering in the back of your fridge. With Thrive, however, you can just reconstitute what your baby will eat for that meal, leaving you with practically zero waste. Especially when you reach the exciting stage of mixed purees and minces, being able to make fun blends without a whole counter full of leftover fruits and veggies that you have to use up before they spoil is a real treat! That’s not to say that I never use fresh produce in my baby foods, I definitely do! Especially in the summer, I frequent my local farmers’ market and grow my own substantial veggie garden. But since discovering Thrive, I don’t have to buy what isn’t in season or scramble to use up 14 different fresh vegetables after making a particularly inspired puree.

3. Convenience

This flows directly out of the previous point, and is my third top reason for loving Thrive. Life with a new baby is hard! It’s busy! You dream of having enough time to just take a shower, let alone cook a meal. If you don’t believe me, just have a baby. Caring for a new little person can be all-consuming, so anything that makes daily life easier is a tremendous blessing. I am currently in the thick of baby-food-making for my second child, and having two under two takes things to a whole new level! Thankfully, Thrive cuts down dramatically on time spent in the kitchen. Imagine it… no more washing, peeling, slicing or chopping! Making your own purees can be as simple and fast as mixing up that iron-fortified baby cereal that every baby is supposed to eat! Thrive is fantastic for spill-free, spoilage-free diaper bag snacks (more on that to come in future posts). Really, when it comes to feeding your family (and yourself too for that matter!), the convenience of using Thrive cannot be rivalled.

So How do I Convert Freeze-Dried to Baby Food?

Have I piqued your interest yet? Or perhaps you’re ready to get out a tiny feeding spoon and dive right in. Making your own baby food out of Thrive is almost that easy! All the most common first taste veggies, including peas, green beans, sweet potato, squash, cauliflower, and many more are available from Thrive. The same goes for fruits – strawberries, blueberries, mangos, pears, apricots, apples, and more are all freeze-dried and ready for you. For a simple, single-ingredient baby puree, I’ve found two different methods to take it from crispy-in-a-can to your baby’s tummy (and face, and bib, and high chair, and floor…)

Method 1: 
Grind up your Thrive fruit/veggie with a mortar and pestle to a relatively fine powder
Add boiled water and stir.
Repeat until you reach desired consistency. Voila!
Method 2: 
Measure out desired amount of Thrive fruit/veggie
Check side of can for reconstitution instructions
Add that amount of boiled water
Put it through blender/food processor/food mill
until desired consistency
Add a bit more fruit/veggie or a bit more water
if needed.
Voila!

It really is that simple! If you want a creamier puree, use breastmilk or formula instead of water. If you want to shake things up, add several fruits or several veggies, or throw in some chicken or beef (did I mention that Thrive also offers freeze-dried meats? Fully-cooked, ready to reconstitute and eat, they are definitely baby-safe as well). Once baby is ready, add in some yogurt or sprinkle some grated cheese on top. The options really are limitless for what you can create for your little one.

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